Sunday was the Freedom Tour in Stirling, NJ. I went because, well, ‘MERIKA.
Thank you to my sponsors for allowing me to gallivant across the country racing where I choose.
I probably should have put a feeler or two out on facebook to see if anyone else was going – Tomi was. Helen drove Rose and Tomas, but we took 2 separate cars. Next time.
Our race didn’t start until 3 in the afternoon which meant going to sleep past midnight on Saturday night wasn’t such an issue. I got there around 1:15 or so and got all kitted up. I pinned Tomi, Tomi pinned his teammate. Ted (whose race was going on but who had pulled out) stuck around to chat, as did Ivan (who flatted out earlier with under 2 laps to go).
The course was phenomenal – 4 nice, smooth corners, with a short riser after the last corner followed by a downhill finish. We rode right through a residential area and the homeowners were relaxing on their lawns, cheering us on. Once the racing started though, I didn’t notice them.
I lined up in the middle of the 40-something man pack and when the whistle blew, I hoped for greatness. Immediately, we were off to a fast start and a break developed quickly. They were also brought back quickly. There was a strong headwind on the back stretch. Coupled with a false flat, a break was sure to get away there – Orlandito told me as much after experiencing his 123 race.
So, 15 minutes into the 40 minute race, I was sitting near the front, probably about 12 men back, when one of the many moves of the day was brought back. The front of the field accordion’ed out while I used my momentum to sail past the front…and attack. I was going full force when I saw Zach Bender (Blue Ribbon – Translations.com) coming with my move. I was hoping for Tomi, but I’d take Bender.
Zach is renowned for his super fast sprint, not necessarily his staying power, but I wasn’t about to complain. We opened up about an 1/8 lap gap within the first minute and continued to pull away. As we came around the announcer, we heard him: “NEXT LAP IS A PRIME LAP, NEXT LAP IS A PRIME LAP.”
I saw Jeff (Bender) off to the left and could hear him cheering, along with Rose and some other people. We worked well for another lap until, as we came around the fourth corner, I saw the field behind us. I pulled off just after the fourth corner and Zach pulled through. Looking back once more, I knew we were caught. Zach wasn’t attacking me for the prime, so I gave a lazy attempt so he would have a chance to react. We threw it at the line and I thought he won, but turns out I did.
We were caught at the next corner by what I later found out was a 5 man chase led my Monsieur Tomas. If only we’d known it wasn’t the entire field….
As they caught us, I sprinted to get onto the back, but there was no point. The field was right there. I pulled off and pedaled backwards until I reached the back of the field. The race was only halfway over and there was a lot of racing to be done.
As we came around the next time, the lap counter turned on. “EIGHT TO GO, 8 TO GO!” The pace quickened, slightly, and I tried to maintain good position. Through the corners, I focused on staying inside, or floating from the outside to the inside if I was close enough to the front so that we were strung out.
With 5 to go, a break of 6 scurried away down the road. None of the teams represented were also racing, but nobody wanted to work. I gave a soft attack to get things going, blew up a little bit, then pulled off. It worked. We pulled them back. With 1.5 to go, on the back straight, 2 racers escaped somehow.
Nobody seemed to care, or notice, or perhaps both. Maybe they got away from the break we just caught, it didn’t matter. We began vying for position with 1 to go. I remember being right behind Tomi, as I like to be in these situations sometimes, and watching him move up on the inside. I was cut off and thought to myself, “well there goes that.”
Coming into the last corner, I remembered Orlandito’s conversation with me earlier: If you’re going to jump, wait until the top of the hill. Do it on the downhill.
Unfortunately, I didn’t understand I ALSO needed strong positioning coming into the uphill. I exited the last turn about 25th wheel, unable to move up. I spun up the little hill, and sprinted down at the top. I passed very few people, but was passed by nobody.
Bender won the field sprint, taking third place after the two that escaped. Tomi took 20th and I took 22nd.
It was a nice course and I think I raced well. I messed up the sprint but otherwise, I wouldn’t change much else.